Friday, August 19, 2022

Buried (Hush Collection), by Jeffrey Deaver

Buried (Hush Collection), by Jeffrey Deaver

'Buried' is a short novella, at under 100 pages, and runs at a fast clip, keeping me - the reader - engaged throughout. 
The plot is simple enough - a serial killer has returned to the small town of Garner and a too-old-to-be-taught-new-tricks journalist, Edward “Fitz” Fitzhugh, heads out to report on the story the old fashioned way. Meanwhile, the kidnap victim is in a race against time to free himself before time, air, and opportunity run out. One eyewitness to the kidnapping refuses to reveal himself and come out in the open, till Fitz employs good old journalistic skills to track him down and get some hints about the probably kidnapper. 

There are some brief passages where the pace slackens and one gets the impression that Deaver is perhaps filling the pages, but those passages are brief. This is a fast-paced novella that kept me turning the pages. All in all, a satisfying read. 

In particular, the opening chapter grabs you by the neck. If I were in a store leafing through books at random and if I came across this book, the first three pages would be enough to make me buy it. Yes, openings matter.

© 2022, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Classified: Hidden Truths in the ISRO Spy Story”, by J. Rajasekharan Nair - Review

Classified: Hidden Truths in the ISRO Spy Story, by J. Rajasekharan Nair 

A Sharp Look at the ISRO Spy Case.

The short of the matter, for people who have not followed the case closely, is that Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientist S. Nambi Narayanan and others were accused of spying and conspiring to sell to Pakistan cryogenic engine technology. For close to three decades the matter rolled around in the corridors of the judiciary, roiling and ruining lives, till 2018, when the Supreme Court ruled that Narayanan’s arrest had been unwarranted, and ordered compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs to be paid to him. Another accused, scientist K. Chandrashekhar, slipped into a coma hours before the verdict was announced, and died soon thereafter. 

Veteran journalist J. Rajasekharan Nair has been following the case since it broke out. His book, “Classified: Hidden Truths in the ISRO Spy Story”, is an updated version of the book he had written in 1998, “Spies from Space: The ISRO Frameup”. He has brought out additional facts and updated the book based on the Supreme Court verdict of 2018 and developments since. What the book reveals is a story of bureaucratic egos and petty revenge dramas, of foreign agents embedded high up in the government, of political games and apathy, cover-ups galore, and international games of espionage and arm-twisting. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Reacher Guy: The Authorized Biography of Lee Child, by Heather Martin - Review

The Reacher Guy: The Authorized Biography of Lee Child, by Heather Martin

(Amazon India, Kindle)

Heather Martin’s authorised biography of Lee Child, ‘The Reacher Guy’, is the story of James Grant the person, Lee Child the author, and Jack Reacher the character.

James Dover Grant goes out on 1 September 1994 and buys “three pads of lined paper, one pencil, one pencil sharpener and an eraser for a total of £3.99.” In March 1995, he sends out his first ever letter pitching his novel. Writing as Lee Child, his first book, Killing Floor, is published in 1997. It is the first book to feature Jack Reacher as the protagonist. Two decades later, by 2018, it is estimated that approximately 400 Lee Child books, on average, sell every hour of every day. Night School, published in 2016, sells 18,000 copies a day. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books have sold well over a hundred million copies.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Krishna Vasudeva and Mathura - Review

Vasudeva Krishna and Mathura, by Meenakshi Jain


Publisher: ‎ Aryan Books International (14 October 2021)
Hardcover: ‎ 234 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 8173056587
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-8173056581

Review - coming soon...


© 2022, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Rukmini, by Saiswaroopa Iyer


Rukmini: Krishna's Wife, by Saiswaroopa Iyer

Writing fiction based on our epics is easy. Writing fiction based on our epics is tough. Somewhere along this dichotomy lies the secret to writing a story that holds your attention and interest while at the same time staying faithful to the original. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

HBR's 10 Must Reads - Management Ideas 2021 - Review


HBR’s 10 Must Reads - The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review – 2021


HBR’s 10 Must Reads - The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review – 2021 is a good collection of short articles covering diverse topics. Of all, however, The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures, by Gary P. Pisano, is the most important, and also the best written, piece. 

It may seem harsh to use the saying – ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’, but success begets imitators. Decades ago, there was the ‘HP Way’, then came Google’s ‘20% Project’ and Amazon’s ‘extreme tolerance for failure’. If HP was the original garage startup that became one of the most successful companies of Silicon Valley (before suffering the inevitable decline, terminal in many cases, that every company goes through; Jim Collins' 2009 book, How the Mighty Fall, is a good read on the subject), Google and Amazon have grown to become trillion-dollar industry leaders. It is unsurprising that leaders at companies look to these successful companies for best practices to emulate. However, a superficial adoption of these practices without an understanding of what makes them successful in the first place is a recipe for failure. The article brings out the truths about five of the best practices of these innovative corporate cultures. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Indraprastha, by BB Lal - Review

Indraprastha: The Earliest Delhi Going Back to the Mahabharata Times

Author: B.B. Lal
Publisher: Aryan Books International

After Independence in 1947, the two most famous sites associated with the Indus Valley civilisation, Harappa and Mohenjodaro, became part of Pakistan. Indian archaeologists began a hectic campaign of excavations to discover more Harappan sites in India. One such excavation was at Lothal by S.R. Rao in 1954-55. In the coming years more than a thousand sites would be excavated, many along the route of the long dried-up Saraswati river. It is a matter of lament from archaeologists, including B.B. Lal that many of these sites have been subject to abject neglect and apathy and are in danger of being lost forever.

B.B. Lal, as a young archaeologist with the Archaeological Survey of India, wanted to examine whether places mentioned in the Mahabharata had an existence that went back to the times of the epic. It helped that the names of many of these places had remained unchanged from the times of the Mahabharata. The first excavations at Indraprastha were conducted in 1954-55, resumed after a gap of fifteen years, in 1969-70, and which continued till 1971-72. There was another round of excavations that was performed in 2014. A total of ten periods identified based on the excavations and the stratification were observed. These periods started with the Painted Gray Ware period, dated to the 10th century BCE; the Northern Black Polished Ware, dated to circa 600BCE; and all the way to the British period, dated to the 19th to mid-19th century CE.

Friday, March 5, 2021

yataḥ kr̥ṣṇas tato jayaḥ - Tales from the Mahabharata

In an earlier article, I looked at the thirteen occurrences of the words, यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः (where there is dharma, there is victory) in the Mahabharata, using the Critical Edition as my reference. These words are spoken by Arjuna, Dhritarashtra, Drona, Gandhari, Karna, Krishna, and Sanjaya.

These words are also the emblem of the Supreme Court of India. The first time these words are spoken in the epic is in the Udyoga Parva, by Dhritarashtra, and the last time by Bhishma, in the Anushasana Parva, just before he takes Krishna’s permission to depart for heaven.

I also pointed out, as best as I could find, only once are these words, an expansion of the earlier phrase, spoken in the Mahabharata, Bhishma – यतः कृष्णस्ततो धर्मो यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः (where there is Krishna, there is dharma; where there is dharma, there is victory), but a variation of these words can also be found in the text – यतो धर्मस्ततः कृष्णो यतः कृष्णस्ततो जयः (where there is dharma, Krishna is there; where there is Krishna, victory is there), also spoken by Bhishma.

So, that led me to another search, of another set of words – यतः कृष्णस्ततो जयः (where there is Krishna, there is victory). These words, in this order, are said six times in the Mahabharata (going by the Critical Edition) – thrice in the Bhishma Parva (all in the Bhagavada Gita Parva, though not in the actual Bhagavada Gita), and once each in the Adi (Viduragamana), Udyoga (Yana-Sandhi), and Shalya Parvas (Gada-Yuddha).